His Theory of Religion. These two works contain the germ of the Rationalism of Germany. Anthropologie, Some comments are mere catchpennies and barefaced impositions on the public. Others may be consulted with great advantage. The best expositions are those of Beck, Kiesewetter, and Buhle. I have taken from them, without scruple, whatever seemed needful for my purpose.
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The brief Introduction here supplied has been recast, to admit of the insertion of an outline of the intellectual system of Kant, and also of a Plan of Study. Other parts have been abbreviated to secure space for these additions. Throughout the text, leading terms have been printed in capitals, and also the more important propositions.
Finally, a series of notes has been given, to facilitate the work of the student in instituting a careful comparison of passages. THE special value of the writings of Kant is so fully acknowledged, that there is no need to insist upon it here. In the literature of Moral Philosophy there is certainly nothing more important than the contributions which Kant has made to Ethical Science.
Even those who hold a Utilitarian theory of morals, must wish to see the works of the great upholder of Intuitionalism placed within the reach of students. This may be readily believed when a leading representative, Mr. John S. The former designation has reference to the method; the latter applies to the matter or materials of the system. As he insists that philosophy must proceed by a critique of the mental Edition: current; Page: [ xiv ] powers, the result is a critical philosophy; and as, in prosecuting this critique, he finds everywhere certain elements superior to experience which constitute the main features of his philosophy, it is denominated transcendental.
When from these general features we pass to a more minute examination of the philosophic system, there is a marked distinction between the Intellectual, or theoretic part, and the Moral, or practical part. The system is not a unity, which must be wholly accepted or entirely rejected.
If one part of the system fall, the whole is not thereby laid in ruins. In this will be found the permanent gain to philosophy which attends upon the use of the critical method, in contrast to the dialectic. The moral or practical part takes a form altogether different, and ends in high positive results, affording to the Kantian system the only deliverance from scepticism. Nothing more than a bare outline of the intellectual system can be given here. He holds that while all knowledge begins with experience, it always includes what is superior to experience.
The product of the sensory is intuition; of the understanding, conception; of the reason, idea. Rising above this, we come to judgments, among which there is an essential distinction between analytic and synthetic judgments. Analytic judgments may be described as identical judgments, gained by explication or analysis of a knowledge already possessed, as all body is extended, the notion body clearly involving the notion extended.
In all this it is apparent to what admirable purpose Kant has employed the critical method. When, however, we consider the bearing of this theory on the grand question as to the certainty of our knowledge, the negative and sceptical result is painfully evident.
Holding that knowledge cannot be obtained except under the forms which reason supplies, Kant accounts this as proving that knowledge is only what appears to us as beings subjected to these conditions, that is, knowledge is only of the phenomenal. What we regard as objects of our experience have no existence apart from our experience. Consequently, we can have no knowledge of things-in-themselves noumena.
Essential as they are for the exercise of human intellect, they lead into a series of paralogisms and antinomies from which there is no escape.
From this Critique, Kant passes to another, the Critique of Practical Reason, by means of which he reaches a certainty unattained in the earlier. Practical Reason reveals the Moral Law as a categorical imperative, discovering the dignity of man as a Person. From this Categorical Imperative, by transcendental deduction, and not as a thing known in conscious Edition: current; Page: [ xvi ] ness, he reaches the Freedom of the Will.
In this relation it is discovered that man is both phenomenon and noumenon,—he belongs at once to the sensible state, and to the supersensible or cogitable,—in the former he is necessitated, in the latter he is free,—a moral being,—a personality. In all this we have a philosophy rich in critical results, and full of the most suggestive thought, though not cleared of the evil influence of those negative elements which cling to the preceding intellectual system.
Into this Practical Philosophy of Kant, the student is here introduced. A perusal of the present volume may explain how it should have happened, that in his own country he was charged with writing in a manner too abstruse, and at the same time developing a system of morals too lofty and stern. The general character of his Moral Philosophy may be inferred from such affirmations as these:—A good will is the only thing which is absolutely and altogether good.
Nothing is dutifully done which is not done under a regard to duty. The moral law is a categorical imperative, leaving no option to the will. The moral law has no exceptions. The moral law makes self-esteem dependent on morality; it elevates our worth as intelligences, and yet derogates infinitely from self-conceit, inevitably humbling every man. From these positions it will be seen, that with Kant freedom of will is the grand essential for morality.
The work now reprinted under the name of Metaphysic of Ethics was not published by Kant in the form in which the translator presented it to English readers. Rosencranz, Th. As a consequence of gathering into one volume portions of the writings of Kant, published so far apart from each other, there will be found at times a repetition of arguments and doctrines. This, which is apt to be disagreeable to a mere reader, will not prove unsatisfactory to students who wish to compare different statements made by the same author on the same questions.
The translation is reprinted as it at first appeared, with the exception of slight verbal alterations. In the seventeenth century Hobbes had reduced morality to political expediency, and Locke, despite the valuable labours of Descartes, regarded all knowledge as empirical. On the other hand, Malebranche, stimulated by the writings of Descartes, was developing a higher philosophy, in which work Edition: current; Page: [ xviii ] he was followed by Leibnitz, who rejected the philosophy of Locke.
The systems of Malebranche and Leibnitz were, however, burdened with hypotheses which ensured their downfall. In the early part of the eighteenth century the philosophy of Locke was triumphant in Britain. Condillac was promulgating the same philosophy in France; while Leibnitz, under serious and self-created difficulties, was supporting in Germany a philosophy of a different type.
In Britain, Shaftesbury, Butler, and Hutcheson maintained a Moral Philosophy based on a foundation antagonistic to the psychology of Locke. Then it was that Hume appeared to apply sceptical tests to the popular philosophy. Scepticism proved potent to raze the Sensational Philosophy to its foundations.
Journal of Ethnographic Theory
Occasioning thus, however, a demand for something more durable, it prepared the way for the most important contributions to mental science of which recent times can boast. Reid set himself in a plain, common-sense way to meet the claim. With philosophical caution, high ability, and much sagacity, to which the criticisms of Kant hardly do justice, he performed his task, though within a limited area, and in a manner singularly unsystematic. Thus awakened, he gave himself to profound thought, the results of which were poured from the press with amazing rapidity.
In a series of volumes, wonderful for their rigidly philosophic style, and far-reaching insight, Kant has given us at once more to be rejected, and more to be retained, both in method and in doctrine, than any other thinker of modern times. In the line of antagonism to a philosophy based exclusively on experience, there have followed, Stewart, Hamilton, and Edition: current; Page: [ xix ] Cousin,—Stewart expounding and amplifying the teaching of Reid; Hamilton blending the doctrines of Reid and Kant, there by complicating the discussion, as by independent research he has cleared it; Cousin supporting Reid, and at one time criticising, at another time upholding, both Kant and Hamilton.
In the line taken by Kant in his speculative writings as to the relation of the subjective and objective, and specially as to the absolute, there have followed him in Germany, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. The theories of these philosophers come directly and visibly as developments out of the speculative philosophy of Kant. In these successive theories, as I venture to think, philosophy runs itself out, by running up to abstractions in the effort to attain a philosophy of real existence. Germany, in order to make a fresh start in philosophy, must return upon the way by which she has recently advanced, and abandon the dialectic method of Hegel, notwithstanding the splendid combinations which the Hegelian Logic presents.
From Hegel, we must, I think, still return upon Kant, seeking fresh hope for Philosophy in a continued use of the critical method. In the search for a Moral Philosophy, how far has he escaped the negative result of his intellectual system? Is Practical Reason not also Pure Reason; and if it be, how does the ethical theory of Kant stand related to the speculative?
Jonathan B. Wight, Ethics in Economics, An Introduction to Moral Frameworks
If Freedom of Will is by Kant set in its proper place in Moral Philosophy, is the doctrine legitimately established by him? And, as fundamental to all, what is the true doctrine of Consciousness?
Such questions as these remain to be answered by the student, who may set to Edition: current; Page: [ xx ] work on the writings of Kant, with the assurance of being amply repaid for all the labour required in subjecting them to rigid scrutiny. For explanation of terms, and general guidance towards an accurate understanding of the author, the student may turn first to the Introduction to the Metaphysical Elements of the Doctrine of Virtue, from page to page ; and, in conjunction with this, to the Prerequisites of a Moral Nature, from page to page In the last-named passage, special attention should be given to the explanation of the nature of Moral Sense and of Conscience.
After these preliminary portions have been taken, the main points in the theoretic part of the work are the Categorical Imperative, or the Moral Law; and the Freedom of the Will, as the essential feature of a moral nature. These are to be studied as developed first in the Groundwork, Book I. These should be taken successively in the order named; and, as they were published at different dates, it will be of consequence to compare carefully the statements bearing on the leading features of the theory.
After these parts, with the addition of the portion treating of Law and Jurisprudence, the more simple and popular division of the book, dealing with Applied Ethics, under the heads Elementology and Methodology, will be found very valuable, not in only itself, but as throwing fresh light on the more abstruse theoretical dissertations.
THERE is nothing in the world which can be termed absolutely and altogether good, a good will alone excepted.
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Intellectual endowments, wit, and extent of fancy, as also courage, determination, and constancy in adhering to purposes once formed, are undeniably good in many points of view; but they are so far from being absolutely good, that they are qualities capable of being rendered bad and hurtful, when the will, under whose control they stand, is not itself absolutely good. With the bounties of fortune it is no otherwise: power, wealth, honours, even health, and those various elements which go to constitute what is called happiness, are occasionally seen to fill the mind with arrogance, and to beget a lordly and assuming spirit, when there is not a good will to control their influence, and to subordinate them, by stable maxims of conduct, to the final scope and end of reasonable agents.
Nay, so paramount is the value of a good will, that it ought not to escape without notice, that an Edition: current; Page: [ 4 ] impartial spectator cannot be expected to share any emotion of delight from contemplating the uninterrupted prosperity of a being whom no trait of a good will adorns. And thus it would appear, that reason being judge, a good will constitutes a prior condition, without which no one is deemed worthy to be happy.
There are qualities which greatly aid and strengthen a good will; but they have not any inward worth of their own, and will be found always to presuppose a good will, which limits the praise they deservedly carry, and prevents us from regarding them as absolutely and in every respect good.
Temperance, self-command, and calm consideration are not only good for many things, but even seem to compose part of the worth of personal character. There is, however, much awanting to enable us to designate them altogether good, notwithstanding the encomiums passed upon them by the ancients.
For, apart from the maxims of a good will, they may be perverted; and a calm, resolute, calculating villain is rendered at once more dangerous and more detestable by possessing such qualities. Even if it should happen that, owing to an unhappy conjuncture of events, this good will were deprived of power to execute its benign intent, still this good will by which is not meant a wish would, like a diamond, shine in itself, and by virtue of its native lustre.
Utility or uselessness could neither enhance nor prejudice this internal splendour: they resemble the setting of a gem, whereby the brilliant is more easily taken in the hand, and offered to the attention of those not otherwise Edition: current; Page: [ 5 ] judges, but which would not be required by any skilled lapidary to enable him to form his opinion of its worth. To make this matter as clear as possible, let it be remembered that it is a fundamental position in all philosophy, that no means are employed except those only most appropriate and conducive to the end and aim proposed.
If, then, the final aim of nature in the constitution of man i. And should her favoured creature have received reason over and above, and in superaddition to its instincts, such gift could only have answered the purpose of enabling it to observe, admire, and feel grateful for the fortunate arrangement and disposition of the parts of its system, but never of subjecting the appetitive faculties to the weak and uncertain guidance of the contemplative. Both end and means behoved, on this supposition, to have been determined exclusively Edition: current; Page: [ 6 ] by nature, and to have been intrusted to instinctive impulses implanted by herself.
For, since Reason is insufficient to guide the Will so as to obtain adequate objects of enjoyment and the satisfaction of all our wants, and innate instinct would have reached this end more effectually, and yet Reason 2 is bestowed on man as Edition: current; Page: [ 7 ] a practical faculty of action, i. In order to explain the conception of a good will, so highly to be prized in and for itself and it is a notion common to the most uncultivated understanding , which it is alone that makes actions of any worth, we shall analyse the notion duty; —a notion comprehending under it that of a good will, considered, however, as affected by certain inward hindrances.
But these last, so far from obscuring the radical goodness of the volition, render it more conspicuous by the contrast. In proceeding to examine the cognate notion Duty, I omit all actions confessedly at variance with it, how expedient soever, and useful, and conducive to this or that end; for, with regard to them, no question can be made, whether they have been performed out of duty, it being already admitted that they collide with it.
I also leave out of this investigation Edition: current; Page: [ 8 ] actions which are in accordance with duty, but are performed from some by-views or oblique incentives of appetite and inclination: the difference cannot be overlooked when an action is performed upon motives of private interest, and when upon a disinterested principle of duty; but the difference is not so easily detected when an action is in harmony with the requirements of duty, and the agent is likewise at the same time strongly biassed by the constitution of his nature to its performance.
Thus it is consonant to duty that a merchant do not overcharge his customers; and wherever trade flourishes, every prudent trader has one fixed price, and a child can buy as cheaply as any other person. In this way the public are honestly dealt by; but that does not entitle us to hold that the trader so acted out of duty, and from maxims of honesty,—his own private advantage called for this line of conduct; and it were too much to suppose that he was so charitable as to deal fairly with all comers out of pure benevolence: in which case his conduct resulted neither from a principle of duty, nor from affection towards his customers, but from self-love and a view to his own advantage.
Men in so far preserve their lives conformably to what is duty, but they do it not because it is so; whereas, when distress and secret sorrow deprive a man of all relish for life, and the sufferer, strong in soul, and rather indignant at his destiny than dejected or timorous, would fain seek death, and yet eschews it, neither biassed by inclination nor by fear, but swayed by duty only, then his maxim of conduct Edition: current; Page: [ 9 ] possesses genuine ethic content. I maintain, however, that in such a case the action, how lovely soever, and outwardly coincident with the call of duty, is entirely devoid of true moral worth, and rises no higher than actions founded on other affections, e.
For the inward maxims of the man are void of ethical content, viz. Again, to take a further case, let us suppose the mind of some one clouded by sorrow, so as to extinguish sympathy,—and that though it still remained in his power to assist others, yet that he were not moved by the consideration of foreign distress, his mind being wholly occupied by his own,—and that in this condition he, with no appetite as an incentive, should rouse himself from this insensibility, and act beneficently purely out of duty,—then would such action have real moral worth; and yet, further, had nature given this or that man little of sympathy in his temperament, leaving him callous to the miseries of others, but instead endowed him with force of mind to support his own sorrows, and so induced him to consider himself entitled to presuppose the same qualities in others, would it not be possible for such a man to give himself a far higher worth than that of mere good nature?
PROPOSITION OF SECULAR HUMANISM AND THE COUNTER ARGUMENT
Certainly it would; for just at this point all worth of character begins which is moral and the highest, viz. Hence we understand why a patient with gout chooses to satiate his appetite, and then to suffer as he best can; for in his general estimate the present enjoyment appears equal to his expectation perhaps groundless of some general happiness called health. That the end aimed at in a given action cannot impart to it absolute moral worth, is, from the foregoing, plain. Wherein, then, consists this value, if it is not to be placed in the relation of the will to its effected action?
Duty is the necessity of an act, out of reverence felt for law. Towards an object, as effect of my own will, I may have inclination, but never reverence; for it is an effect, not an activity of will. At the utmost, I can approve or like. That alone which is the basis and not the effect of my will can I revere; and what subserves not my inclinations, but altogether outweighs them, i. The moral worth of an action consists, therefore, not in the effect resulting from it, and consequently in no principle of acting taken from such effect; for since all these effects e.
It is therefore nothing else than the representation of the law itself— Edition: current; Page: [ 13 ] a thing possible singly by Intelligents—which, and not the expected effect, determining the will, constitutes that especial good, we call moral, which resides in the person, and is not waited for until the action follow. But the question now presents itself, What kind of law is that, the representation of which must alone determine the will, if this last is to be denominated absolutely and altogether good?
The above position is in entire unison with the notices of the most untutored reason; and the principle of universal fitness is, however darkly, ever present to the mind. A few examples will set this beyond doubt. Let the question be put, if, when in difficulty, I may not promise, although determined to act otherwise than I say,—and every one will at once see the vast distinction betwixt an inquiry, whether or no it be prudent, and whether it be right i. That it were cleverly done is quite conceivable; nay, it would require much adroitness, since it were not enough by this evasion to secure for once my by-ends and interests, but it would be requisite to ponder the posterior disadvantages, and to study whether the consequences of this deceit might not issue in depriving mankind of all confidence in me,—an evil perhaps greater than that from which I proposed Edition: current; Page: [ 14 ] rescuing myself.
So that it might be needful to consider if it were not, even in point of prudence, better to act from a maxim possessed of universal fitness, which could serve me for ever, and to adopt the principle never to promise apart from the intention to perform. But still, in this latter event, it is obvious that the maxim were based on an apprehension of the troublesome consequences attendant on deception; and it is quite different to adhere to truth out of a principle of duty, and to adhere to it from an apprehension of unpleasant sequents.
In the former case, the very notion of speaking truth involves in it its own law, commanding how to act; the second compels me to look beyond the action, to ascertain how I may be affected by it. For when I swerve from the principle of duty, I know for certain my action to be evil; but if a maxim of prudence expediency only be departed from, I cannot tell whether the result may not fall out highly conducive to my advantage, although the safer plan were to abide by it.
Now, in order to know whether a deceitful promise consists with duty, I put the question, Can I will my maxim to free myself from embarrassment by a false promise law, in a code or system of universal moral legislation? What, therefore, I have to do in order that my volition be morally good, requires no great acuteness. How inexperienced soever in the course of external nature, I only ask, Canst thou will thy maxim to become law universal? If not, it is to be rejected, and that not on account of any disadvantages emerging to thyself and others, but because it is unfit for law in a system of universal moral legislation.
Edition: current; Page: [ 15 ] For this potential legislation, reason forces me to entertain immediate disinterested reverence. And though we do not yet descry on what this emotion is founded, still we understand thus much of it, that it is the representing a worth far transcending the value of whatever is addressed to appetite and inclination; and that the necessity of an act out of pure reverence for the law is that which constitutes duty, before the representation of which law every other mobile recedes,—that being the condition of a will good in itself, the worth of which is above all.
And now we have evolved the principle whereon depend the common ethic notices we find mankind generally possessed of; a principle not of course cogitated in this abstract form, but which is notwithstanding, how darkly soever, always at hand, and made use of daily by all mankind in their common practical opinions and judgments.
The task were easy to show how, with the aid of this principle for a compass, reason can in every instance steer for good and evil, and all this without teaching mankind anything new or unknown, provided only, as Socrates did, we made reason attentive to her own latent operations; and consequently, how we stand in no need of science or philosophy to know what it behoves us to do that we may become honest and good, nay, even wise and virtuous.
This might have been surmised from the nature of the case, that an acquaintance with what was to be done, which for that reason it concerned every man to know, would have lain at the door of the most common person. Nor can we sufficiently admire how the practical and active powers of man are so much more easily exercised than we find the same powers to be in their theoretic and speculative use; for whenever untutored reason ventures upon this last, and quits the field of experience and observation, she gets involved on the instant in the incomprehensible, and becomes entangled in her own operations, Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] or, however, errs through a labyrinth of inextricable doubt and uncertainty.
And this leads us again to the further question, if, since all this is so, it were not better to leave these ethic notions unphilosophized upon,—at least to bring in the aid of science only to make the system more complete, or to assign rules for the purpose of polemical debate, but not to employ it for any practical behoof, and so distort the common sense of mankind from its native innocence and simplicity.
Innocence is indeed invaluable, but then it does not know how to defend itself, and is easily seduced. Hence it comes that even wisdom which consists not in knowledge, so much as in what man practically pursues and avoids stands in need of aid from science, not to learn anything, but to procure an inlet and stable foundation for her decrees. Man feels within him a mighty counterpoise against those edicts of duty which reason represents to be so highly august and venerable;—a counterpoise arising from his physical wants and instincts, the aggregate gratification of all which he calls happiness.
Reason, however, unremittingly issues her inexorable Edition: current; Page: [ 17 ] command, and holds out to the appetencies no prospect or promise of any sort; and so seems to disregard and hold for nought their tumultuous and yet plausible claims, although these are not put to silence by the law. We see, then, how it happens that even unlettered and vulgar reason is forced to step from home, and enter the fields of practical philosophy; not certainly to satisfy a speculation by no fit of which the reason of the vulgar, so long as he is sane, is at any time invaded , but in order to be resolved as to her practical doubts, and to gain information there as to the origin and foundation of our own principles, and to be enabled to fix their weight and importance, when contrasted with those other maxims which rest singly on appetite and want, and so to be extricated from the double embarrass caused by these twofold claims, and shun the hazard of making peril of genuine ethic principles.
And as reason, in its speculative use, fell into a dialectic with itself, in the same way we find that the practical reason, even of the unlettered, arrives unawares at the same antagonism with itself. On the contrary, when we attend to what experience teaches of the conduct of mankind, we hear many complaints, the justice of which we must admit, that no certain instance can be adduced of actions flowing from the inward bent of the will, to act singly out of regard to duty; since, even in the cases where an action is quite in accordance with what duty would demand, experience and observation leave it entirely in doubt how far the action emanated from a principle of duty, and so possessed any moral worth.
Accordingly, philosophers have at all times been found who denied the real existence of such inward dutiful intent, and who have insisted on ascribing all to self-love; not that they called in question the accuracy of the idea of morality, but regretted rather the frailty and improbity of human nature, which, while so noble as to start from the contemplation of so highly reverent an idea, was at the same time too weak to keep moving in its track, and employed reason, the legislator and governor of the will, to no other end than to adjust and settle the discordant claims of appetite and passion.
I am ready to grant that the major part of our actions coincide with duty: on examining, however, the aim and designs of mankind, self is generally found predominant, and actions spring from self, not from the stern law, which in most cases ordains self-denial. Nor need he be deemed an enemy to virtue, but a calm observer simply—not inclined to mistake his good hopes of mankind for the reality he wishes—who may at times be led to doubt whether genuine virtue is anywhere to be found throughout the world; and in such a state of things, nowhat can guard against our total apostasy from the idea Duty, and uphold in our soul reverence Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] for its law, except the clear insight, that even although there never yet were actions emanating from this pure source, that cannot affect the question: since we do not now inquire what phenomena may in fact happen, but whether or not reason, irrespective of all phenomena, legislate for herself, and ordain what ought to happen?
Again, when it is added, that unless where morality is totally denied, no one doubts that its law is figured to be of catholic extent, and valid, not adventitiously or contingently, but absolutely and necessarily, and that not merely for man, but for every intelligent nature, such universality and necessity reminds us at once, that no experiment or observation could even suggest to us the possibility of thinking such an apodictic legislation. Nor can morality fall into the hands of worse defenders than when it happens into the hands of those who attempt Edition: current; Page: [ 21 ] to found it on examples; for every example given to me of it must first be compared with the principle and standard of morality, to know if it be worthy of being elevated to the rank of an archetype or pattern, and so of course cannot originate in us the notion.
Even the Holy One in the gospel is only recognised to be so when compared with our ideal of moral excellence. So much is this the case, that He Himself said, Why call ye me whom ye see good? Whence this idea God, as the supreme archetypal good? Imitation has no place in morals. Examples serve only to encourage to moral practice—to put beyond doubt the possibility of performing those duties unremittingly commanded by the law,—and to exhibit to sense, in a tangible and outward substance, what the legislation of reason expresses only in the abstract and general; but their use is perverted when their original in reason is overlooked, and conduct regulated upon the model of the example.
And yet in the present age this last may well be necessary; for were we to collect voices as to whether a popular practical philosophy or metaphysic of ethics i. To accommodate a science to the common conceptions of the people is highly laudable, when once the science has been established on first principles; and that, in the present case, would amount to founding ethics on their true basis, metaphysics; after which a popular dress may carry and spread the science more widely: but to attempt such a thing in a first investigation is folly. Not only would such procedure have no claim to the signal and rare merit of true philosophic popularity, but it would lie open to the objection of amounting to no more than an odious and revolting mixture of random remarks, crude and half-fledged opinions,—a mad attempt, which would furnish the shallow with materials to talk of and quote in conversation, but which could only embarrass the more profound, who, dissatisfied, avert their eyes, and remain unaided; although those who see through the illusion are little listened to when they insist on the abandonment of a futile popularity, in order to become then only popular when clear and definite insight has been attained.
Nature has, as it were, designed sex as good and beneficial but only on the condition that it conforms to its designs. Foucault therefore asserts that the perception of the dangerous physical and spiritual effects of unrestrained sexual activity led to a moral and medical discourse about sex different in kind than that of ancient Greek ethical discourse.
It focused more on moderated use as a means of achieving physical and spiritual health rather than excellence. The mode of subjection is the way in which the individual establishes its relation to the moral code, recognizes itself as bound to act according to it, and is entitled to view its acts as worthy of moral valorization.
For example, consider the obligation to help someone in need. The use of pleasures refers to how a man managed or integrated pleasures into his life such that their use did not compromise but benefitted his health and social standing. Appropriate management submitted the use of pleasures to three strategies. The strategy of need demanded that desires for pleasures should arise from nature alone and be fulfilled neither extravagantly nor as a result of artifice. The strategy of status demanded that a man use his pleasures consistent with his inherited status, purposes, and responsibilities.
But submitting oneself to this mode of subjection meant imposing ethical requirements on oneself that were not included in the moral code. In fact, submitting oneself to this rigorous sexual ethics was seen as a noble and fine choice precisely because it was not morally required. The mode of subjection for ancient Roman sexual ethics is also an aesthetics of existence, but Foucault is also clear that it is more austere than the Greek ethics that preceded it.
What this means is that Roman ethical obligations became stricter despite a loose moral code regarding sex. The increased austerity of this ethics is due in part to the perception of an intrinsic passivity of sexual acts, and also because the means of responding to this passivity required greater attention to the rationality of nature which is not be understood according to the distinction between what is normal and abnormal.
Roman ethicists conceived that the pleasures of sex were derived by involuntary and dangerous movements of the body and soul, and that seeking pleasure as the end of an act only furthered the possibility of corrupting both body and soul. Consequently, the criterion by which Roman ethicists evaluated sexual conduct was whether it was born of desire conformed to the wisdom of nature. These practices are not to be conflated with an asceticism that strives for the goal of freeing oneself from all desires for physical pleasures. To be sure, all ascetic practices are, Foucault thinks, organized around principles of self-restraint, self-discipline, and self-denial.
Foucault maintains that the ethical work to be performed in ancient sexual ethics is that of self-mastery. For the ancient Greeks, mastering oneself is an agonistic battle with oneself, where victory is achieved through careful use of the pleasures according to need, timeliness, and social status. Greek ethicists understood that this battle required regular training in addition to the knowledge of the things to which one ought to be attracted. The sort of training a man undertook was aimed at self-mastery through practices of self-denial and abstention, which taught him to satisfy natural needs at the right time consistent with his social status.
The moral end of such practices was not to cultivate the attitude that abstention is a moral ideal, but rather to train him to become temperate and self-controlled. As such, successful self-mastery was exhibited by the man who did not suppress his desires, but authoritatively controlled them in a way that contributed to his excellence and the beauty of his life. Foucault suggests that this ideal is exemplified in the literature about the love of boys, which heroized the man who could express and maintain friendly love for a boy while at the same restraining his co-present erotic love.
Foucault is clear in The Care of the Self that the ethical work in ancient Roman ethics is also self-mastery, and that the ethicists reconceived the nature of this kind of ethical work. Instead of an agonistic relationship in which a man struggles to subdue and enslave his desires for pleasures rather than be subdued and enslaved by them through their proper use, the work of self-mastery for Roman ethics was forcing the desires for pleasures into proper alignment with the designs of nature.
What becomes essential for this ethics is grasping that all pleasures that are not internal to oneself originate in desires that might not be capable of satisfaction, and whenever one chooses to engage such desires one subjects oneself to physical and spiritual risk. The intensification of the austerity of sexual ethics this change in self-mastery produced is emphasized in marital ethics. Their joint spiritual well-being was considered integral to the harmony of the human community.
The telos of an ethics is the ideal mode or state of being toward which one strives or aspires in their ethical work. The man who controlled his use of pleasures made himself personally prosperous — physically excellent and socially estimable — in the same way that a household or nation prospers as the result of the careful and skilled governance of a manager or ruler, and a man was not expected to be successful in managing his household or exercising political authority and influence without first achieving victory over his pleasures.
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The man who failed to master his pleasures and yet found himself in a position of authority over others was a candidate for tyranny, while the man who mastered his pleasures was considered the best candidate to govern. Roman ethicists conceived the activity of self-mastery as aiming at a conversion of the self to itself, which they conceived as freedom in fullest form. Through the ethical work of self-mastery an individual conformed their desires to the rationality of nature, which resulted in a detachment from anything not given by nature as an appropriate object of desire.
Roman ethicists did not understand the telos of self-mastery as the authority over pleasures that manifested itself in their strategic use, but rather it manifested itself as a disinterestedness and detachment from the pleasures such that one finds a non-physical, spiritual pleasure in belonging to the true self nature intends. Nature does not recommend the mere pursuit of pleasures; it recommends the pursuit of pleasures insofar as those acts are consistent with other ends that it wants met.
Foucault certainly claims in both those volumes that the care of self is foundational to ancient ethics UP 73, , ; CS , but curiously, and despite his titling of the third volume The Care of the Self , he does not provide significant discussion of the care of self in its generality.
This history emphasizes the integral relation between the care of self and the concern for truth, notably on display in the practice of parrhesia frank-speech , as its central mode of expression.
For the ancients, Foucault claims, the care of the self was the foundational principle of all moral rationality. Today, however, caring for oneself is without moral content. By explaining the ancient conception of the care of the self and its connection to the Delphic prescription to know oneself, famously observed by Socrates, Foucault wishes to diagnose the exclusion of the care of the self by modern thought and consider whether, given his diagnosis, the care of the self might remain viable in modern ethics.
These two injunctions were originally expressed by Socrates — the exemplar par excellence, Foucault thinks, of the person who cares for himself — with the care of the self serving as the justification for the prescription to know oneself. The prescription to know oneself was the means through which one cared for oneself, and Socrates cared for his own soul and the souls of others by using the practice of dialectic to force the examination of the truth of his own thought and conduct and that of his interlocutors.
The salient point for Foucault is that Socrates did not practice philosophy merely as a means of arriving at true propositions. Instead, his program was to use philosophy as a tool for examining and testing the consistency of the rational discourse he and his interlocutors employed to justify their lives and conduct. Foucault sees this as a philosophical activity that is fundamentally oriented to the care of the self, for truth is pursued in philosophy for its own good and the sake of ethical development.
Foucault therefore distinguishes between philosophy simpliciter and philosophy as a spiritual activity. But philosophy as a spiritual activity — or philosophy undertaken according to the injunction to care for oneself — is philosophy conceived as ethical work that must be performed in order for an individual to gain access to the truth.
This is not to say, of course, that philosophy as a spiritual activity does not seek to acquire knowledge of things as they are. Rather, it is to say that such knowledge requires right conduct in addition to the justification of a true belief. Now, knowing oneself becomes merely a necessary epistemic, and not moral, condition for gaining access to the truth. Consequently, attending to oneself becomes judging the truth of a proposition, and self-knowledge is not a directive for spiritual and ethical development.
In modernity philosophy is, for the most part compare HS 28, where Foucault adds some qualification , not the activity of ethical transformation that aims at the existence transformed by truth. The modern shift in the construal of self-knowledge as self-evidence required changes in moral rationality. But this is predicated upon a fundamental misconception of the care of the self. The care of the self is the ethical transformation of the self in light of the truth, which is to say the transformation of the self into a truthful existence.
In the final two years of his life, Foucault began to focus his attention on a particular ancient practice of caring for the self, namely, parrhesia alternatively, parresia or frank-speech. Parrhesia is the courageous act of telling the truth without either embellishment or concealment for the purpose of criticizing oneself or another. Foucault stipulates that there are five features of the parrhesiastic act. First, the speaker must express his own opinion directly; that is, he must express his opinion without or by minimizing rhetorical flourish and make it plain that it is his opinion.
Second, parrhesia requires that the speaker knows that he speaks the truth and that he speaks the truth because he knows what he says is in fact true. Fourth, the function of parrhesia is not merely to state the truth, but to state it as an act of criticizing oneself for example, an admission or another. Finally, the parrhesiastes speaks the truth as a duty to himself and others, which means he is free to keep silent but respects the truth by imposing upon himself the requirement to speak it as an act of freedom FS ; see also GSO It is in Socrates, Foucault says, that the care of the self first manifests itself as parrhesia.
But not only Socrates; Foucault considers parrhesiastic practices throughout the ancient Greek and Roman epochs. Socrates himself lived in a way that was in perfect conformity with his statements about how one ought to live, and those statements themselves were supported by a rigorous rational discourse defending their truth. Because Socrates bound himself in his conduct to his own philosophically explored standards, his interlocutors understood him to be truly free. Socratic parrhesia therefore manifests the care of the self because its intent is ethical, for it urges the interlocutor to pursue knowledge of what is true and conform their conduct to the truth as ethical work.
Whether or not that was accidental is an interesting area of scholarship. Thus, around Kant, Foucault combines critical philosophy and ethics, and that connection provides greater insight into just how Foucault conceives of ethics and the history of ethics in relation to his own project.
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We cite or discuss the following. Unless noted otherwise, we cite the pagination beginning with volume number of the Akademie Ausgabe edition of Kants gesammelte Schriften , Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, —. Wood eds.